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Fires Are No Joke… But This One Was!

By Angel Nuñez

We all know that fires are no joke, but the very first fire that I can remember in the 1950’s is remembered by a lot of folks as a big joke.  In those days there were no movies in San Pedro but occasionally the Government Information Service of Belize used to travel around the country presenting documentaries about farming, fishing, diseases such as malaria and what have you.

Well, I remember that it was one of those nights that the government was showing one of those documentaries in San Pedro, which all the locals proudly called a movie.  It was a big thing in San Pedro and the Scout Room right beside the church was packed to capacity by the entire village- men, women, and children or about some 400 persons. People were seated on the floor or standing along the walls, and a few persons had taken their private chairs or small benches for this one hour documentary film.  

Suddenly there was a shout of “Fuego” meaning “Fire”.  I believe most people thought it was a fire in the building and everyone dashed frantically to the single door, which was now the exit door.  That door led to the single wood stairs, some 12 steps to the ground. Here’s the joke. Some adults jumped out through the windows.  A lot exited and jumped to the ground without using the stairs. Some women were shouting frantically for their children. A woman rushed out with one of her slippers only.  Another woman hit the street with a blue and a white slipper. An older man claimed he had swallowed his lit cigarette. One woman had her blouse completely ripped open in the front and was exposing her bra. Others had varying degrees of damages to their blouses or skirts. One or two lover couples still had lipstick stains all over their cheeks and necks.  I still wonder why this was so! This was blatant because in those days there was only one color of lipstick and it was a brilliant red.  

In the meantime all the men had rushed to the site of the fire which was a small thatch roof of a kitchen situated exactly at the corner lot beside the Belize Bank.  It took only about ten minutes before the men overpowered the flames that were rising about ten feet in the air and spreading only about ten feet in circumference.  They used a bucket brigade using water from the sea via the street by Cholo’s.  They were all wet and covered with black soot. The roof of the kitchen had been completely destroyed.

The next day or two the men of San Pedro joined forces just like we do today.  There was no radiothon, but some of them sailed their dories up north and cut enough palmetto leaves to help Don Adriano Acosta replace the thatch roof of his kitchen so that his beloved wife, Dona Benita would not have to cook in the open.  In a few days the kitchen was back to normal and was forgotten, but what was not forgotten were the many funny stories of the villagers during their ordeal in trying to escape from the movie house or rather the old scout room of San Pedro.  
NOTE: On another occasion I will tell you why that building was called the Scout Room when there were not even Scouts in San Pedro twenty five years ago.

25 Years Ago Books Can Be Purchased At:
-Ambergris Today -Lala’s Store -Chico’s Meat Shop -Pampered Paws -Ambergris Jade -San Pedro BTB Office -Aquarious Salon (Kim) -S.P. Town Library -Di Bush -Richies Stationery -San Pedrano’s Stationery

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